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Shutdown cripples life in Darjeeling

Life came to a standstill in Darjeeling with a shutdown called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) demanding a separate Gorkhaland state for the region.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Kolkata
UPDATED ON JUN 10, 2008 02:55 PM IST

Life came to a standstill in West Bengal's hill district of Darjeeling with a shutdown from Tuesday morning called by the Gorkha Janamukti Morcha (GJM) demanding a separate Gorkhaland state for the region.

According to reports, the shutdown received a good response as all shops, markets and business establishments remained closed.

“The indefinite shutdown is continuing in the hills but there are no reports of any major untoward incident so far,” West Bengal Inspector General of Police (Law and Order) Raj Kanojia told IANS.

All three sub-divisions, Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, and some areas of Dooars observed the shutdown.

Kanojia said there were some local agitations at Birpara in Dooars.

The GJM called a 24-hour shutdown on Monday to protest an alleged attack on its members by supporters of the state's ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and members of other political outfits at Naxalbari when they were taking out a peaceful rally there on Sunday.

An exodus of tourists also began from the Queen of Hills as the new shutdown took effect from Tuesday morning. Over a thousand tourists were halted near the Teesta Bridge in northern West Bengal while returning from Sikkim.

“We are stuck here with our kids and family. We want to get out of this trouble but there is no adequate transport available. We want to request the state administration to make necessary arrangements for the tourists who are facing harrowing time here due to the strike,” said Supriyo Dey, a tourist in Darjeeling.

Police sources said thousands of GJM supporters staged a demonstration in front of the Birpara police station in Dooars.

The GJM, led by its president Bimal Gurung, has been spearheading a movement in the hills for a separate state and also opposing the 'Sixth Schedule' status for Darjeeling district.

The central government in 2005 conferred the Sixth Schedule status on the Gorkha National Liberation Front (GNLF)-led Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) that ensures greater autonomy to the governing body.

But Gurung's group, which is opposed to the GNLF, is demanding full statehood for the hill region.

The DGHC was formed in 1988 through an agreement between the central and state governments and the GNLF after the hills witnessed violence for about two years.

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